One Too Many Planets Part 10

She felt his eyes on her as he work from sleep, but as he hadn't spoken she didn't acknowledge the fact and continued her chore.

"What're you doin', Carter?"

She didn't so much as blink to interrupt her work as she replied dryly, "I think you can see for yourself – feel, too."

She dipped her cloth in what looked like soapy water and reached for Jack's other arm starting at his hand and moving up to lather his elbow and upper arm.

He grimaced, though not in pain.

"I kinda like to do this sort of thing myself."

She moved on to his shoulder and then chose a clean cloth to remove the soap, eventually reaching for a larger cloth to dry him, ignoring his words.

Clearly uncomfortable, Jack began to squirm; he was well aware of his lack of clothing beneath the thin sheet which rested precariously at his hips and a formidable scowl twisted his features. Sam chose to ignore that too, concealing her amusement beneath a neutral countenance. She had moved to his chest now and he was growing more agitated with every movement of her arm, particularly as his 'look' had failed miserably to intimidate his 2IC.

It wasn't, he realized, as if he hadn't had bed baths in the past. He had, but at least it was usually the senior nurses who, knowing his propensity for blistering language and his intense dislike of anything which hinted at his own lack of independence, were lightning quick with the ablutions. This, however, wasn't a faceless nurse who was wielding a very soapy cloth – it was Carter and he was having serious difficulties dealing with this situation.

"Carter, I was six the last time my mother gave me a bath. I think – woah!"

As the cloth moved to his stomach, Sam reached out with her free hand intending to lower the sheet, resulting in Jack grabbing said sheet and pulling hard in the opposite direction.

"Goddamn it, Carter, no more! Understood?" He was breathing heavily and glaring furiously.

Sam paused, her blonde head at a tilt as she observed him, apparently unaware of his distress. "Is there anything troubling you, Colonel?" she asked sweetly.

"Yes!—No!" he snapped, hating the feel of the blush creeping up his neck and face.

"I am pleased to hear it." And clearly unwilling for any further interruptions, continued, "Now…if you will allow me to help you turn on your side, I will-."

"What for?"

She looked slightly taken aback. Surely it was obvious 'what for'? "So I can wash your back."

Jack felt the same as when he'd been five year's old and Sister Angelina had been explaining the significance of learning how to read rather than staying out in the playground playing catch as he had much preferred.

"My back's fine," he growled.

Yet even as he held tightly to the bed sheet he felt Sam's capable hands moving him carefully.

"I really don't think-."

"Does that position pain your wound?" she interrupted.

He scowled. "It's fine! And as I was saying-."

He felt the warm, soft cloth move over his shoulders, a not altogether unpleasant sensation… Acutely aware of stirrings in one particular area of his body and, mortified at his own lack of control, Jack forced himself to flip all the way over onto his stomach gasping in pain as his side made contact with the bed.

"What are you doing?" Sam sounded alarmed.

"I…I feel better like this," he lied.

"Your wound-."

"It's fi-ne." He was infinitely relieved she couldn't see his face which so obviously belied his words. "Now get on with it, Carter, and stop at my waist. That's an order."

"An order?" she repeated softly.

Uh oh – that tone of voice sounded a little ominous to Jack's ears but at least he was feeling less exposed and the pain from his wound had certainly had the desired effect on his hormones. He shifted slightly to ease the pull on his injury.

"That's right, Carter. I'll just remind you – you're the Captain and I'm the Colonel, which means -."

"I have no interest in such childish games," she muttered, renewing lathering his back.

"Games?" he growled. "And will you stop interrupting me when I speak?"

"If I believe it is worth my attention," Sam replied calmly, smothering a laugh as she heard Jack mutter a few choice expletives under his breath.

"I did not hear you, Colonel."

"It was nothing!" he snarled, aware of her hands drying him.

"It did not sound like nothing," she persisted pointedly.

"Are you finished?"

"Not quite."

Jack froze not liking what he was hearing. When in doubt – attack!

"Let's get one thing clear, Carter," he explained slowly, having difficulty trying to turn himself back on his side. "Will you help me out here?" he demanded indignantly.

She stared him in the eye, exasperated blue to irritated brown, but even so she gently gave him support so that he was able to turn back.

"This may seem a cosy spot for you," and now it was Sam's turn to flush hotly at his accusing and belligerent tone, "but the second I can leave this bed, we're outta here. Do I make myself clear?"

He was beginning to hate the supercilious look Sam had taken to wearing and which she had adopted when they had confrontations.

"Where the hell are my clothes?"

"Somewhere safe."

He rolled his eyes. "And that would be?" His dark eyes stared at her unamused.

"Exactly where I said. And now," ignoring his glacial expression, "I believe I said I wasn't quite finished..." She held out a mug to him and felt her annoyance evaporate into thin air as Jack wrinkled his nose, shook his head and firmly sealed his lips. She couldn't help the grin which spread across her face, her blue eyes lighting up.

"Now I know what you looked like when you were five years old."

His mutinous expression turned annoyed as she approached him determinedly, but she took no notice.

"Aw, c'mon, Carter. Have a heart. I'm practically drowning in the stuff."

Sam shook her head, finding his petulant whine fit his spoilt little boy look to perfection and her smile widened.

"Stop whining, Colonel, and take your medicine like a man."

"I'm not whining," he snapped peevishly. "I never whine!"

Sam's eye's rose to the ceiling whereupon she took a calming breath. "Good. Let me see you drink this."

She thrust the mug under his nose and was surprised when the ailing man took it. Almost immediately, however, her suspicions were aroused and she stood over him, watching warily. He was staring into the depths of the drinks.

"Don't suppose you know what's in this stuff, Carter?"

"Drink!" Her patience was beginning to wear thin and she put on her severest expression, folding her arms to show she meant business.

Plaintive brown eyes looked up into hers. "It tastes awful."

"I can go and fetch Jantha and Keeva," she said mischievously.

She felt his accusing eyes on her and knew she'd hit a tender spot when he flushed and dropped his eyes.

"You know, Carter, when we get back, there are a few insubordination issues I'm going to want to raise with you…" He allowed the threat to hang in the air but his annoyance escalated when he saw his words had no effect whatsoever.

"As you wish. Now drink before I-." She suppressed a sigh of relief as he emptied the contents down his throat, well aware how exasperated he was that she watched him swallow every mouthful. Wiping a hand across his mouth, he shuddered in disgust, pushing the mug away.

"Urgh – it's disgusting!"

"It's helped to keep you alive."

"The hell it has – all it does is make me sleep." And in childish irritation, Jack's fist thumped down on the bed as he vented his displeasure in the only way possible and much to his surprise, Sam simply laughed at him, softening her attitude by gently pushing the hair back from his forehead.

"Young children need their sleep," she whispered mischievously.

"I'd like to see you toss that stuff back, Carter. In fact," and now

Jack's eyes darkened menacingly, "before we leave here, I'm going to get some of this stuff and keep it for any time you need some T.L.C."

Her eyebrows rose questioningly, and she echoed, "T.L.C.?"

He hesitated. "When you're sick," he muttered.

"I don't get sick."

"Yes, you do."

"My mother-."

"I should know, Carter. I've got a square butt sitting on those damned infirmary chairs waiting for you to wake up," he snapped sarcastically.

Sa found herself frowning, aware that somewhere deep within her was a memory trying to force its way out and yet…

"What is a square butt?"

It was Jack's turn to raise an eyebrow. "Agh, for crying out loud. Just forget it!" he mumbled disgustedly and unable to forestall the demands of the opiate tea, his eyes began to close. "I want my uniform when I wake up, Carter." She just stared at him blankly. He yawned. "You have trouble hearing?" He struggled to keep his eyes open, able to see a sardonic quirk touch her mouth as she leaned close to him.

"Only when I hear words of nonsense," she whispered. And as his heavy lids obscured his vision and he felt himself surrender to the force of the drug he wondered if he really had felt her lips brush his forehead?

Knowing he would sleep for a few hours, Sam went in search of Christa, finding her in a large salon with a number of beautifully dressed young women hovering about. Christa was making some minor alterations to one girl's attire, pulling down a neckline which Sam already considered was too low.

As the older woman's eyes alighted on Sam, Christa's face lit up. "Carter, come my dear, join us in refreshments."

Feeling conspicuously under-dressed, Sam joined her on the low chaise-longue accepting a crystal glass of sweet smelling juice which she was unable to recognise. She smiled to herself imagining what Jack would say to the difference in their beverage, knowing there would be a few strong words thrown in to voice his opinion.

"To your warrior's improving health." And seeing Sam's evident enjoyment of the liquid after she had tasted it, chuckled, "An improvement on what Colonel is consuming, I do think."

Sam grinned in agreement.

"He would be most put out if he were to learn of our refreshments." And having spoken, the younger woman drank even more copiously.

They talked a little of Jack's recovery and Christa observed Sam's expressions as she discussed his amusing demand for his clothes.

"I sense our patience will be sorely tested in these coming days as his strength begins to return," mused Christa.

"My patience is sorely tested already!" the younger woman exclaimed indignantly resulting in Christa bursting into hearty laughter.

"Indeed this man has entered your heart," she chuckled, noting the becoming colour suffusing Sam's neck.

"Not so, my lady," she denied forcefully, gulping more of the wine in the hope it would hide the emotions Christa seemed so adept at noticing. She ducked her head, hiding her eyes. "His heart is for one named Sam," she uttered softly. "Hers is the name he calls for in his fever and in his dreams."

Acknowledging the fact with a slight nod, for she too had heard this same name called for over and over by the sick man, Christa grew saddened as she saw the beautiful young woman next to her try to guard her heart against the pain of her emotions.

At that moment before the woman could offer her own advice, a young, slightly breathless girl approached, her cheeks pink with excitement.

"The gentlemen are at the door, Christa, they are here." Her large eyes glowed with unconcealed pleasure and Sam watched curiously as the older woman reached out with a kerchief and wiped some of the colour from her cheeks.

"Modesty, Trygna – you must learn to be calm." Then smiling to show there was no rebuke intended, she nodded her head clapping her hands. The room of chatter instantly became silent. "Ladies, the gentlemen will shortly enter. Do your best…and remember…Enjoy!"

Sam could feel the excitement level rise at this last word and she turned to Christa who was already rising.

"Come, Carter. We will leave these ladies to their pleasure, though I must admit," and here she turned a studious eye on Sam, "given the right attire and hair preparation, you would do great justice to this house."

"This house?" She was looking more and more perplexed.

"Yes, dear one. This is a house of pleasure."

For a moment, Sam's confusion remained and then understanding dawned as her eyes widened and even more colour brightened her cheeks.

"Oh!"

Looking over her shoulder, she now saw these young ladies in an altogether different light and the spark of interest was there to know what went on behind these now closing doors.

Seeing that look, Christa chuckled knowingly.

"Ah, I see I have a possible student?"

"No!" Not intending her vehement denial to be so disrespectful, Sam stammered, "I...I mean, I simply wondered…"

"So many do, my dear, but few dare or have the opportunity."

"How does one become a…a-."

"A courtesan? There are many who aspire and a few are chosen. And then there is the schooling."

"Schooling?" Sam was unable hide her surprise.

"Ah, I see you are unfamiliar with our specialized training." Christa's amused eyes watched as Sam tried to assimilate all she was hearing about this oldest of all women's professions. "Well, if you ever change your mind."

Sam smiled, acknowledging the compliment, and then turned to wonder what the warrior would think if she did accept. Somehow she knew there would be volcanic eruptions should he even have an inkling of her thoughts. And now that her mind had turned to him, she knew the very best way to help him was to find this Stargate he was so obsessed to locate and help him to return home to the strange world to which he belonged. Having no intention of accompanying him, she knew she would have to deal with that hurdle eventually.

"Christa, Colonel speaks often of a gate, a special gate which can take him to his own homeland. He calls it a 'Stargate'. Do you know of such a thing?"

Tipping her head thoughtfully, the older woman considered the question. "I have heard him use this name in his fevered talking but I paid little attention. Do you not know of this gate?"

Sam shook her head despondently. "He seems to think it is to the north of this place. Surely, if such a place were to exist, it would be known to all hereabouts."

Christa frowned, shaking her head. "Some places of magic are kept secret; mayhap that is the case with this gate of your Warrior."

Sam nodded, deep in thought and so did not at first see when Christa held out something to her.

"What is this?" her blue eyes had grown wide in admiration and amazement.

"Your own dress has seen better days."

"But I cannot accept this – it is too generous."

"Nonsense. It would please me to see you wear it." Smiling at the look in Sam's eyes as she eyed the midnight blue dress with fine gold trim, Christa pushed it into the blonde haired woman's hands. "And besides," she whispered coyly, "let that Warrior of yours see you in this and he'll never even consider this other woman of his dreams ever again!"

Smiling weakly, Sam could barely prevent herself from touching the material longingly, though she still felt it inappropriate.

Noting her hesitation, Christa continued, "Let us make a bargain."

The younger woman frowned cautiously.

"Tomorrow evening it is the turn of the novices to be initiated into the Meeting Ceremony."

As she saw alarm in her young companion's eyes, Christa held up a hand in a placating manner. "It is not what you think, Carter. These are novices, as yet uninitiated in the finer arts of the courtesan. Tomorrow they will be required to make pleasant conversation, nothing more."

"But on whom will this art be practiced?"

Christa smiled softly, her mind harking back to her own initiation. "Young nobles, still wet behind their ears and happy to be in the company of my ladies, if only to hear them prattle. Some will come thinking they can coax more than is allotted to them and this will be a pleasing challenge, which I will venture my ladies will win hands down."

Sashai smiled uncertainly. "I thank you for the honour, but I would not be good company for such young blood. I would be considered-."

"Oh, I have not made myself clear." Christa's hands rose in apology. "The Lord Diago will accompany the sirelings and he deserves a pleasure that will be richly rewarded when he sees you, my dear."

At the far too obvious compliment, Sam again found her cheeks colouring. "I…I do not know that I could entertain this lord, but if you think I could benefit your house, I am in your debt for all you have done."

Quietly admiring the dress she had just put on, Sam jumped at the sharp knock on her bedroom door, her fantasizing brought to an abrupt end. The one called Gulda stood in the doorway looking obviously agitated, eyes filled with distress.

"I regret this disturbance, Carter, I know you are preparing, but the warrior refuses to settle for the night." She was wringing her hands together, her anxiety all too evident. "He has rejected all nourishment and is demanding your presence. My mistress is indisposed and I thought it proper to call you. He is…."

'A pain in the butt!' She was shocked at her coarse thoughts and decided she had too long been in the company of this troublesome man.

Seeing the girl was almost at her wit's end, she spoke soothingly, "You did well, Gulda." Sam smiled at her in an attempt to relax the tension but inside, her displeasure with Grey Hair was reaching eruption level especially after all he'd put her through this morning.

He had been in a foul mood all day starting when she had gone to him that very morning holding up a long nightshirt in triumph. He had looked at it askance and glared at her.

"Very pretty, Carter – so what's the occasion?"

Ignoring his sarcasm, she said, "It is for you. You said you-."

"I said I wanted my own clothes, Carter. I haven't changed my mind," he snapped, his eyes darkening.

"We will start with this," she said brightly, beaming as if to infuse him with her positive spirit. She approached his side taking no notice of the dark scowl he threw at her.

"I want my clothes," he growled, pushing himself up whilst favouring his injured side.

"Why?"

The question seemed to throw him and he looked at her confused.

"For crying out loud, Carter, just do as you're damn well told! I thought it was bad enough explaining my every decision to Daniel."

And right before her eyes, Sam had a flashing impression of a perplexed face with intense blue eyes, a hand pushing up glasses which had slipped down his nose, but it disappeared just as quickly as it had come leaving her with a clearly ill-tempered man on her hands.

Inspiration suddenly dawned. "I will make a bargain with you." Suspicious brown eyes watched her closely. "If you can walk across this room unaided and walk back to your bed, I will do as you request."

She saw the gleam in his eyes as he accepted the challenge and made to move, only to hesitate.

She jumped in, "You decline?"

"Hell, no," he spat back. "I kinda don't want to do this butt naked."

Working hard to suppress her grin, she still found him a most perplexing character – one minute a warrior like no other and the next a shy little boy, unsure of himself.

"Then put this on for a moment." She held out the nightshirt.

He stared resentfully at it for a moment then making his decision, snatched it from her outstretched hand. Sam resisted the urge to help him. He was going to have to do this by himself, and if she was any judge of an illness, there was no way he would manage what she had asked. She wanted him to fail.

Struggling into the nightshirt, Jack immediately felt a little personal self-confidence return. From his bed he eyed the wall across the room, then taking a deep breath he pushed up. For an alarming second the whole area seemed to spin and he tumbled back already noting the triumphant expression on Sam's face. It goaded him to summon hidden reserves and this time, having repeated the movement, he was able to stay up and calm the wild looping of the walls. Carefully, he brought his legs down to the ground and felt himself sway dangerously. Sensing more than seeing Sam's arms reaching out to offer support, he growled at her to keep away, using the bed to assist until he found his balance.

Looking down at himself, he grimaced at the long shirt covering him, and then pulled his thoughts back to what was at hand. Gritting his teeth, he took his first step and fought the burning pain in his side.

His ashen pallor had Sam deciding very quickly that it had been a huge mistake on her part to suggest such folly and she stepped forward to block his way.

"Get out of my way!"

Her eyes spoke as much as her words. "I was wrong to encourage this foolishness. You are not yet strong enough to attempt this feat."

He was swaying dangerously. "Get the hell out of my way and I'll show you what I can do."

Jack's eyes were blisteringly bright and as Sam reached out a helping hand he pushed her away hard. The swaying continued but he was still upright and unsteadily he made his way across the room trying hard to hide his relief when he could put a hand out to support himself on the wall. His look was icily triumphant as he stared deeply into Sam's own troubled gaze, making the return journey his jaw locked in grim determination. A fine film of sweat had covered his brow as he sank back on to his bed, trying hard to conceal the effort it had cost him. Allowing himself a minute to recover and control his laboured breathing, he lifted his head exultantly.

"My clothes, Carter," he ordered, his elation all too evident.

She shook her head and had the grace to look ill-at-ease.

"Carter?" His voice carried warning enough, and as Sam saw the build-up of his anger she realized she had only herself to blame. She should have known he would do the impossible.

"I lied."

Warily she watched his eyes change from disbelief to fury; she was poised for his swift retribution. There was none. His disregard for her almost hurt more. Then suddenly, he propelled himself up and surged past her. "Just forget it, Carter. I'll find them myself."

The door rocked on its hinges as he threw it open but the adrenaline rush was all but depleted and Jack could already see black spots before his eyes, his own weakness sapping the strength from his trembling limbs. Stubbornly, he tried to resist the inevitable but was unable to sustain his own weight. He grabbed the door for support and reluctantly, was forced to accept Sam's assistance back to his bed.

Lying back, an arm thrown across his eyes, his whole body was a knot of outrage and when he felt a cool hand wiping his brow he twisted savagely away, turning on his uninjured side so his back was all Sam could see.

Throughout that morning she had attempted to initiate conversation, to draw her sullen patient into any form of communication, but he resisted all her efforts and, eventually, Sam fell silent.

When Christa came to check up on the invalid, Sam scuttled away, relieved to escape the icy atmosphere of the room.

And now, having driven her away, he was demanding her presence! She would give him her presence all right she thought resolutely.

Pushing the door to his room open, she had been ready to go straight into a tirade of mega proportions until she saw the utter bewilderment in his dark eyes. And then realizing that it must be her dress and the way her hair had been arranged, she mumbled something about a party, wondering why she should feel the necessity to explain herself to this impossible man.

He didn't appear to take any note of what she had said, though she was later to realise how very mistaken she was. But for now he stared at her with such a piercing look that her unease grew.

"What made you stay?" he asked softly.

"What?" She was totally confused, her expression mirroring her bewilderment.

His eyes drilled into her with intensity. "You could have gone – you didn't." He continued to stare at her, his expressive eyes drawing her ever deeper to him. "Why?" he persisted.

Unaccountably, she felt a wave of panic hit her and felt irritation course through her. "You talk in riddles."

"Just answer me, Carter." It was more a plea than a demand.

She could feel her head aching again, as it had on and off all day. She really didn't need this. "Gulda informs me you are refusing to eat."

Now it was his turn to look impatient. "Dammit, Carter, just answer the goddamn question. Why didn't you leave me where I dropped? I couldn't have stopped you going. Why?" he demanded compellingly.

"I do not know," she snapped, clearly unhappy with the persistence of Jack's questioning. Had she not asked herself the same question and found no answer.

"Unacceptable, Carter. You can do better than that – you're an astrophysicist, for crying out loud!"

She frowned, rubbing a hand at her temple, trying to ease the tension that had been there most of the day.

"I cannot tell you…. It is just…."

"What?" His eyes burned with such fierce intensity Sam was sure the fever must have returned.

"I just…I…I could not leave you behind." And just as she thought her answer was truly pitiable she saw him freeze and then visibly relax and, yes, she was sure, he had given her the briefest of smiles before allowing himself to lie back.

She continued to watch him attentively but it appeared he had nothing further to ask of her.

"Is that all?" she demanded, annoyance again creeping into her tone. "Could this not have waited?"

He looked her in the eye, something there she could not comprehend.

"No, it couldn't wait. …Er, I think I could eat now. Do you think you could rustle me up a juicy steak or something along those lines?"

Sam's blue eyes narrowed in exasperation but when she saw his grey head tilt to one side, a trace of a grin on his tired face, her annoyance evaporated. He looked like a young boy caught in some misdemeanour, using his charms to escape punishment. Well, it was working, she thought wryly.

Approaching his side, she tried hard to keep a stern face.

"Hi, Carter," he said softly, making her blush inexplicably.

Quickly averting her eyes, she spoke softly, "I will have Gulda bring you some nourishment though I do not believe you are quite ready for meat. Soup possibly."

She heard him groan and smiled.

"Aw, give me a break, Carter."

"I do not know what this 'break' is that you request," and turning to Gulda, she gave instructions to the girl. Bobbing a curtsey, the maid exited the room, a look of obvious relief on her face that a crisis had been averted.

Sam felt Jack's eyes perusing her but tried to ignore it as she reached out to feel his forehead, brushing his hair back in a gesture which was almost intimate.

"Nice outfit. Going somewhere?"

She stiffened, unable to understand why she hesitated to tell him where she was going. 'Why on earth would he be interested in these women's arrangements?' she thought apprehensively. "Christa has requested my presence at a formal occasion for some of her ladies."

Well aware what sort of establishment he was in, Jack frowned. The ladies who had been taking care of him hadn't exactly hidden their appreciation of his looks and, even though weak and ill, there had been a number of propositions extended to him for the future which, even if he had no intention of taking up any of said offers, inflated his ego at the offers. Unfortunately, this feeling of bonhomie to the ladies' profession did not extend to his 2IC, and once Jack realized Sam's plans, he was unable to prevent himself from going into full commanding officer mode.

"What the hell are you thinking, Carter?" he snapped icily. "You will NOT attend what you so quaintly describe as a 'formal occasion'," and here the sarcasm dripped from his lips.

Immediately, rebellion settled on Sam's face; she hated the autocratic manner Grey Hair had adopted and neither could Jack fail to notice her defiance. His face darkened, his brown eyes narrowing with a terrible anger.

"Have I made myself clear, Carter?"

Her own eyes snapped a biting reply to accompany her words. "I believe I am of an age to determine my own choices."

"Listen to me, Captain - you'll damned well stand down on this or I'll-."

"You are in no position to make demands," she hissed heatedly.

"The hell I am." He reared up in his bed swallowing a painful gasp. "I'm giving you a direct order!"

Just at that moment Gulda returned holding a tray and beaming happily as she entered the room. The smile fled as she took in the aggressive stance of the blonde woman and the furious look Jack was throwing at her.

Deciding she had really had enough of this volatile man who had the effrontery to speak to her as if she were a common foot soldier in the palace guard, Sam turned on her heel, rolling her eyes at Gulda.

"Damn you, Carter, don't you dare-."

She slammed the door, gaining enormous satisfaction from the resounding crash as the timber banged shut.

Go to Part 11